The Comprised Mobility of Moscow's Labour Migrants: States of Exception in a Super-Diverse City

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: 419
Oral Presentation
John ROUND , Sociology, Higher School of Economics, Russia
Irina KUZNETSOVA , Centre for Cultural Studies of Postsocialism, Institute for the Comparative Studies of Modernity, Kazan Federal University, Kazan, Russia
While Moscow is a super diverse city with between 4-5 million of its population international labour migrants, the majority from Central Asia, and despite the state recognising their economic importance, levels of integration and tolerance are extremely low. This paper argues that increasing xenophobia and unclear legislation forces many migrants to live and operate within shifting states of exception, ensuring a precarious everyday which impacts greatly on their mobility. While often used to describe migrant camps this paper argues that the state of exception concept applies to Moscow as a whole as even documented migrants are prey to state officials and, increasingly, its citizens due to the uncertain everyday life that imprecise legislation creates. Thus migrants share informal knowledge about the safest places in the city and the routes around it which reduce their chances of interactions with the police. Furthermore, many who desire formality are forced into informality by their employers and landlords refusing to register their documents correctly, increasing their vulnerability and denying welfare access.  Compounding this, while it is extremely unclear who can demand a migrant’s documentation they are routinely stopped by the police and increasingly by members of the public, with groups such as ‘Moscow Shield’ proclaiming themselves as the city’s protectors.  This ensures that migrants wish to spend as little time as possible in ‘public’ spaces to reduce the risk of confrontation, punishment and violence. For many their spatialities of Moscow are reduced to their work place and accommodation and there are very few places where integration occurs.  Through the work of Lefebvre and de Certeau the paper then addresses how migrants develop informal tactics to ‘cope’ with these everyday realities and carve out spaces of the city for themselves.